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Red Wings miss playoffs again but young core creating optimism

Injuries, absence of Zetterberg led to third straight season without berth

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

The Detroit Red Wings failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season after a 25-season streak.

The Red Wings (24-36-10) were eliminated from playoff contention when they lost 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Here is a look at what happened during the 2018-19 season for the Red Wings and why things could be better next season:


The Skinny

Potential UFAs: Jimmy Howard, G; Niklas Kronwall, D; Thomas Vanek, F; Luke Witkowski, D

Potential RFAs: Martin Frk, F

Potential 2019 NHL Draft picks: 10


What went wrong

Zetterberg out: The season began with forward Henrik Zetterberg failing his training camp physical and a doctor telling him he couldn't play hockey anymore because of a degenerative back condition. The Red Wings lost their captain, No. 1 center and second-leading scorer from 2017-18, continuing the erosion of their elite talent. Center Pavel Datsyuk went home to Russia in 2016. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012.

Injuries: Injuries on defense were a huge factor in a 1-7-2 start that put Detroit in a hole, and injuries in general have been a factor throughout the season. Trevor Daley (27) and Danny DeKeyser (27) have missed the most games among defensemen, Darren Helm (21) and Anthony Mantha (15) the most among forwards.

Bottom line: The Red Wings feel they have been more competitive this season. But they rank 27th in the NHL in goals per game (2.66) and 28th in goals-against (3.37). They have no one among the top 46 scorers in the NHL and no one among the top 52 scoring defensemen in the League.


Reasons for optimism

Young players: Center Dylan Larkin, 22, has established an NHL career high with 27 goals. Forward Andreas Athanasiou, 24, has set NHL highs in goals (24) and points (42). So has 24-year-old forward Tyler Bertuzzi, with 16 goals and 33 points. Mantha, 24, is scoring goals at the highest rate of his four-season NHL career, 0.31 per game. Rookie forward Michael Rasmussen, 19, has spent the entire season in Detroit. Rookie defensemen Dennis Cholowski (52 games) and Filip Hronek (34 games), each 21, gained NHL experience before being sent to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. Forward Filip Zadina, 19, the No. 6 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, spent most of the season in the AHL but has gotten a late-season taste of the NHL with two points (one goal, one assist) in eight games.

Video: DET@ARI: Larkin pots Kronwall's feed on power play

Surplus of draft picks: Once the Red Wings knew their playoff streak was about to end in 2017, they started to stockpile draft picks in an effort to replenish their talent. They selected 11 players in the 2017 NHL Draft, then 10 in the 2018 draft, including four in the first two rounds. Four of their 10 picks in the 2019 NHL Draft are in the first two rounds, and they could have as many as four picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft depending on the conditions of a trade.

Potential moves: Senior vice president Jimmy Devellano and general manager Ken Holland have worked for the Red Wings since the 1980s. They helped build the Stanley Cup championship teams in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 and are determined lift them out of this down cycle, or at least to set the foundation for them to do so. Devellano said in October the Red Wings would be aggressive after this season, perhaps going "outside the box." Holland, who passed Jack Adams for most wins by a Red Wings GM when he reached 914 in February, has one season left on his contract and said he would make decisions in the best interests of the Red Wings.

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